Governor Glenn Youngkin wants to add more nuclear power generation in Virginia, calling for the construction of a reactor in Southwest Virginia as part of the 2022 energy plan. Energy plans are issued by each governor as a statement of the administration’s priorities and recommendations.
“I want to plant a flag right now. I want to call our moonshot. Virginia will launch a commercial small modular reactor [SMR] that will be serving customers with baseload power demand in Southwest Virginia within the next 10 years,” Youngkin said at the Monday presentation.
SMR nuclear generators are new technology with advantages including smaller sites than traditional nuclear plants. In 2020, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the first SMR design. Dominion Energy in Virginia currently operates two older nuclear generation plants but is advocating for the implementation of SMRs.
Youngkin pitched nuclear as part of a broader solution to address the need for clean energy alongside a lack of technology and reliable sources to meet deadlines created under the previous administration. Youngkin and his team also highlighted challenges with intermittent energy generation sources like solar and wind, highlighting baseload sources like nuclear and hydrogen-based energy generation.
Republicans are united in a desire to repeal the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA), a law passed under the previous administration, which regulates Virginia’s energy priorities. Democratic control of the Senate protected the VCEA in 2020, although Youngkin has signaled he’s looking at regulatory bypasses to provisions of the law. There’s disagreement among Republicans about what Virginia’s energy policy should be, with some also opposing solar and wind projects in Virginia, priorities Youngkin doesn’t share.
“Today I need to acknowledge that the plan that was adopted in 2020 by the previous administration established inflexible rules with rigid deadlines,” he said, adding that Virginia should have clean energy goals.
In a letter introducing the energy plan, he said, “Additionally, we must reject the mindset that it is ‘either/or,’ and embrace the reality that it is ‘both/and.’ In fact, the only way to confidently move towards a reliable, affordable, and clean energy future in Virginia is to go all–in on innovation in nuclear, carbon capture, and new technology like hydrogen generation, along with building on our leadership in offshore wind and solar.”
In a more detailed look at the plan, Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade Chelsea Jenkins listed key findings in the assessments leading to the plan, including that compliance with the VCEA’s 2050 goal of 100 percent zero-carbon energy will create supply shortages and Virginia will have to buy energy from neighboring states which don’t have the same strict laws.
“It’s irresponsible to place bets on technology 30 years in advance without the flexibility to assess and adapt,” Jenkins said.
She also warned that energy rates would rise, and called for restoring some oversight power to the State Corporation Commission which regulates utilities.
Youngkin ended the presentation using California as an example of Virginia’s future if it doesn’t change direction.
“California has been a leader in shutting down reliable power generation in favor of intermittent sources of power, which are a part of the solution but cannot be the foundation today for the final solution,” he said, saying the state faces blackouts, asks residents to cut power usage, and buys energy from neighboring states which use natural gas generation plants.
After the presentation, Youngkin’s office sent out a press release with praise from Virginia Republicans and one Democrat.
“Our existing energy plan, brought about by environmental extremism, might well leave people freezing in the dark. That is the definition of failure. Governor Youngkin’s plan to emphasize clean, safe, nuclear power is a key step forward on the road to a reliable energy future for Virginia,” Speaker of the House Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) said.
“In 2020 under the previous General Assembly, Virginians lost. The path set by the Virginia Clean Economy Act places all burdens on Virginia ratepayers and no responsibility on the energy producers for the expansion of renewables. Governor Youngkin’s plan aims to right-size renewable energy policy in Virginia and turn Virginia’s energy plan into one with achievable, commonsense objectives,” said State Senator Jen Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach), who is running for Congress.
The release also quoted the first tweet in a thread by Delegate Sally Hudson (D-Charlottesville), a labor economist and assistant professor of public policy at the University of Virginia.
“Governor Youngkin just announced his new Energy Plan, and there’s a lot for everyone to like in it,” Hudson said.
Hudson said she’s at the front of a new wave of delegates who want affordable energy, and that Virginia’s energy landscape is changing.
“There’s a lot that gives me pause in the new plan, too – like the push for unproven nuclear projects that so often flop and greenwashing ‘renewables’ like biomass and biogas that are so far from clean,” she continued.
She concluded, “For too long, Virginia has been captive to utilities – biggest donor to both parties – and their campaign cash bought them the rights to write their own rules at all of our expense. @GovernorVA is calling on Virginia to reject the false choice between energy that’s affordable, reliable, and clean. We can do all the above, and I’ll work with anyone who wants to get that good work done.”
Not all Democrats shared that reaction. State Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond), chief patron of the VCEA, said in a Monday release that rising energy costs are due to rising costs of fossil fuels and over-reliance on those fuels, not the VCEA.
“The facts are clear: The Virginia Clean Economy Act will increase use of more affordable clean energy and lead to a decrease in the cost of energy bills for the average Virginia family by $30, according to a 2022 industry group study,” she said. “Unfortunately, Gov. Youngkin’s non-binding Virginia Energy Plan attempts to slow down progress on the Virginia Clean Economy Act. Gov. Youngkin does not have the authority to change VCEA, a law passed with bipartisan majorities in the legislature. His attempted roadblocks would prolong Virginia’s reliance on fossil fuels and increase utility bills for everyday Virginia consumers.”
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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Glenn Youngkin” by Governor Glenn Youngkin.
One Thought to “Youngkin Calls for New Nuclear Generator in Southwest Virginia as Part of Energy Plan”
No State can unilaterally transfer sovereignty. Richmond’s authority extends to the State line.
In the US Constitution the only venue for changing this would be the consent of both legislatures and the Federal Congress under –
Article IV – The States, Section 3 – “New States”
“New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.
The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.”
Under the Virginia Constitution, Virginia’s sovereignty rests with the people of Virginia (Virginia Constitution, Article I, Section 2) and the General Assembly cannot surrender or delegate Virginia’s sovereignty to another State. Nor can the General Assembly or Virginia administrative officials try to make Virginians subject to laws or regulations promulgated by other States (Virginia Constitution, Article I, Section 6). Legislative or administrative convenience does not excuse or justify Virginia officials enacting statutes or promulgating regulations that surrender or delegate any portion of Virginia’s sovereign powers to another State.
Again, Richmond’s authority stops at the State lines, as with all States. That is a bedrock of Federalism. You would need the permission of Sacramento and Congress. It was never voted on. Therefore, it is void, it is a usurpation power beyond the purview of the legislature and executive. I hope this goes to the Virginia Supreme Court or better yet to the US Supreme Court to put this to bed.